Friday, August 29, 2008

Countdown to a strike?

With Boeing's best and final offer out for the IAM and it's membership to study, a countdown has started towards midnight, September 4th. Boeing's offer called for a 11% increase in wages over three years. IAM was looking for 9 to 13% over the same period but was targeting the upper range of that number. An interesting offer was giving each worker $2,500 if they approve the new contract by September 3rd. Clearly, they're trying to talk directly to the machinists. There was also substantial improvements in benefits and Boeing has taken many issues off the table that IAM had objected to including moving to a 401(k) style retirement plan. One thing that Boeing is holding a line on is outsourcing which has formed the backbone of the 787 manufacturing process.

One experienced Everett employee that I talked to termed the final offer as "complete BS" as he'll receive only a pay increase of amounting to only $.25/hour and that new hires behind would essentially be making the same as him. He feels that he's not being paid for the time that he's put in.

Clearly there is dissatisfaction in the IAM ranks over this contract. However, there will be quite a few who will support it. I think particularly the older machinists will be more inclined to support this proposal because of the improvements in the wage and health care options. Boeing's strategy is to repeat what happened in 2002. In that negotiation 62% of the machinists voted against Boeing's proposal. But since they needed a 67% vote majority to go out on strike the proposal was automatically triggered and was forced upon the union membership. Clearly Boeing is hoping that this will be the case this time around.

This could have consequences 3 years from now if this happens as it could lead to a lot of bitterness within the membership that can result in a strike in 2011. We'll know in a few hours what the union leadership will recommend to it's membership.

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